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MikeMc
Engine Wiper



Posted - 06/22/2015 :  4:05:24 PM  Show Profile  Visit MikeMc's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Yes Bruce, I am open to that - let's discuss Wed night!

Mike McNamara
Delran, NJ



Country: USA | Posts: 229 Go to Top of Page

MarkF
Engineer

Premium Member


Posted - 06/22/2015 :  7:51:02 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Be careful what you say 'yes' to with Bruce. Next thing you know, you will hear the fatefull sound of a tape measure and the words 'we can fit a second level right over here'. Ask me how I know!

Its looking good Mike! I'm looking forward to Wednesday night.


Mark

Country: USA | Posts: 13120 Go to Top of Page

MikeMc
Engine Wiper



Posted - 06/26/2015 :  2:24:39 PM  Show Profile  Visit MikeMc's Homepage  Reply with Quote
A big thank you to the guys who came over Wednesday night and operated the Northeast Kingdom for its inaugural session. I am extremely pleased with the results, and grateful for their operating experience to quickly grasp concepts and ideas and get the trains running.

MarkF, Steamnut, DiamondBill, John R (CL&W), Joe DnHMan, and Jim H did a great job. It is interesting to try to convey a lot of info to make operations make sense to those not familiar with the layout or the prototypes being modeled, and they had a lot of good suggestions I can implement to make things easier.

MarkF and Joe were brave and manned the St. Johnsbury yard positions. This can be hard to digest because you have trains of 4 railroads and tracks that come from north, south, east and west, and trains that have specific work. It is not a typical arrival/departure type yard. In fact only 1 train has power in the yard and departs and returns during the session. All others come through with various things to do. It kept them busy, but I have to hand it to them, they looked and sounded like they knew what they were doing in no time!

Here's Mark and Joe busy working the yard. Power was a stand in RS2 as the regular S2 came down with decoder issues just prior to the session, of course. Being lighter presented an issue when dealing with large cuts of cars. The much heavier S2 should resolve that.



Diamond Bill signed up the Lamoille Valley Morrisville yard position. Before I even got a chance explain things to Bill he was already doing his work! Bill had some extended down times as other areas of the layout were busy, but I have already thought of ways to address that, and Bill had some suggestions too.

Bruce was on the road, and ran a number of Lamoille Valley trains. He coordinated activity at the yard with Bill. Here Bruce is putting his power in the (unfinished) enginehouse for refueling. This pair handles most of the road work, and sometimes runs with an additional helper for the grade between St. Albans and Morrisville.



The coaches in the yard are for a passenger excursion later in the session. Bill and Bruce helped diagnose a few issues in the yard trackage that I can easily correct, but I am happy they worked through those issues effectively.

John ran a number of road trains. Here John is running the Maine Central local from North Stratford, TY-2, a turn job. It will get a lot more interesting once the trackage in North Stratford is put in. John is in Crawford Notch where he needs to run around hos train to head towards St. Johnsbury. This is necessary as the branch diverges from the eastbound direction, and John needs to now go west to St. J.



After arriving in St. Johnsbury with TY-2, John waits as the yard crew determines how to best handle the inbound train, and get it back on its way to North Stratford as YT-1.



Jim H ran a number of different road freights, including the Canadian Pacific local RS-1. This comes from Newport staging up to Lyndonville. Here will be some local switching to to attend to. For now, only a temporary inbound and outbound track are in place, but laying track here is high on the priority list. Jim is checking his waybills. With one of the RS2s pulled into yard duty, we found Jim's train with a single MLW RS10 to be underpowered for the grade into St. J.



One issue we did have was the Maine Central local YQ-1, which leaves St. J and does local switching out to Whitefield and back. I need to make sure this gets started earlier in the session as it has a number of other trains that depend on either it's cars being delivered or it being clear of the MEC mainline. What will also help wil be establishing a paper mill switch job like I did for Groveton. This will allow the local to take less time overall to do its work, while splitting the total work across 2 operators. Not exactly how the prototype handled it, but them the MEC had about 10 hours to let the local do its thing, and that doesn't translate well to an op session!

Here we see Bruce hard at work switching the paper mill. He has a cut of cars to deliver to the Boston & Maine at Whitefield as well. So dropping cars here for the switcher to handle will expedite that, and on the return trip the switcher can have the outbounds ready for pickup.



I wish I could have gotten more pictures, but things were enjoyably busy all through the evening. It was great to get some things answered, like do I have enough capacity to have a 3 hour op session? We ended up a little long actually and did not run 3 trains, but with some adjustments we should be good. Much like you guys were saying, until it all starts to happen, you just don't know how things will go.

And the layout handled most everything pretty well which was rewarding. Bruce helped answer a question I had about shorts and also had a remedy, as he usually does!! There were the expected car issues, and a few high couplers, etc., but that was expected. 2 odd Tortoise situations, one that (again) Bruce quickly diagnosed.

In fact everyone chipped in with useful info and that was probably even more important as I move forward, so thanks again!

Next session will be in August, so time to get busy implementing some of those suggestions and fixes!

Mike McNamara
Delran, NJ



Country: USA | Posts: 229 Go to Top of Page

MarkF
Engineer

Premium Member


Posted - 06/26/2015 :  4:33:45 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Mike, it was a blast! I want to commend you here as considering this was your first official op session, I thought it went extremely well! You had obviously thought things out well. Your documentation was pretty easy to follow once we understood it. Waybills were clearly written out. Engines and trackwork were excellent. Overall, an excellent experience!

I really enjoyed the yard. It's more like an interchange yard rather than your typical classification yard. One might look at it and seeing that it's relatively small, there isn't much that goes on there. They would be wrong! It was busy and challenging, but not overwhelming. Definitely a two man job though.

Later in the night I got to head out on the road during some down time to help John with a local. I found your switching areas to be well laid out. Challenging but not impossible.

Great job Mike. I can't wait to operate again.


Mark

Country: USA | Posts: 13120 Go to Top of Page

sjconrail
Engine Wiper



Posted - 06/26/2015 :  6:22:43 PM  Show Profile  Visit sjconrail's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Looks like everyone had a great time and things seemed to work. Congrats on the first session Mike!

Phil



Country: USA | Posts: 299 Go to Top of Page

nhguy
Fireman



Posted - 06/26/2015 :  6:55:21 PM  Show Profile  Visit nhguy's Homepage  Send nhguy a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
Looks like a fun time for sure!

Bill Shanaman
New Haven RR
Hartford Division
in Colorado.

Country: USA | Posts: 4763 Go to Top of Page

MikeMc
Engine Wiper



Posted - 09/17/2015 :  2:21:51 PM  Show Profile  Visit MikeMc's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I've been doing a number of small things on the layout to prepare for Op Session #2 next week. These included a lot of things the guys brought up from the first session, plus some of my observations about the schedule from the first session.

Steamnut was kind enough to supply a cooling fan for behind my Digitrax command station and booster to keep things cool, so I got that hooked up.

I also raised the UR91/92 receivers to above the backdrop to improve reception. In testing, I get good response from both simplex and duplex throttles. It was mentioned by someone though that raising the UR92 (Duplex) is not necessary, and turning it upside down and keeping it low would work well. I am pretty much the only one with Duplex in our area that I know of, so I'm not sure if anyone else has experience with this. For now, the UR92 up high is working well, although the guys pretty much operate with the throttles they bring, simplex.

I fixed some track issues, including replacing a throwbar on a Central Valley turnout and extending some siding lengths in the yard to accommodate power that lays over between runs. Here is an interesting angle of the St. J yard showing one of the track extensions in place. Now it needs scenery!



I also addressed a few freight cars that had issues in the first session, minor things like couplers. I also need to put a few more cars on the layout to help balance out trains. I ended up with some rather short trains in staging at the end of their runs. I put together some car cards and waybills from recently acquired, albeit unweathered, freight cars. Here I am adding weight and checking trucks/couplers on my "work station" also known as Lyndonville. Once I lay all the track here I am going to miss it a as a big work area!



Looks messy, but not really too bad.

I've also been addressing the operating schedule and working on some of the train instructions and the instruction sheets for St. Johnsbury and Morrisville yards. As much as possible I want to make sure the operators know what to do and what is coming next. Eventually I want to get to the point where I can put arrival/departure times on trains at the yards like MarkF does on other area layouts. It is a great benefit and really helps a lot, but takes time to get things to that point.

I also found that the one Maine Central local from St. J to Whitefield and back took a long time as part of its work included switching the paper mill. I am going to establish a new job there to handle switching before and after the local comes though. This way the local can just drop and pickup and allow it to complete sooner, and preventing the bottleneck in the schedule. This was suggested by the crew last time - really helps to get that feedback from a session! You never really know how things will work out until things are all happening during a session.

I spent some time doing the of restaging, and taking stock of how cars were balanced, making adjustments and taking notes. One thing I tried prior to the first session was putting graphite down on the rails. I wanted to see how it would work in enhancing conductivity and preventing dead spots and dirty pickup wheels. I have to say after not really running anything since the last session I was really surprised to not have any issues at all! Usually after a lot of running, I would have pretty dirty wheels and sound cutting out. Not happening now at all.

I know some other guys use CRC 2-26 with equally good results. I have that too but have not tried it myself. My comment would be if you have experienced electrical issues issues and seem to clean track too often, try one of these methods and see how it works. I'm sold.

While doing that test running, I found that I might have a spare operator in case I run short on a session. Just need to work out that throttle interface for paws!




Country: USA | Posts: 229 Go to Top of Page

jbvb
Fireman

Premium Member


Posted - 09/17/2015 :  9:51:23 PM  Show Profile  Visit jbvb's Homepage  Reply with Quote
As long as kitty doesn't leap at the passing train...

My first reaction to graphite on the rails would be concern that a conductive powder might find its way into places it wasn't wanted, but I'll shut up and see how it works for you. I hope things work out so I can see your layout during next month's MER/NER convention.



Country: USA | Posts: 5049 Go to Top of Page

MarkF
Engineer

Premium Member


Posted - 09/17/2015 :  10:59:26 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Mike, I can first hand appreciate the phase you are now in. 5 sessions later, I'm still in that phase! But addressing the 'issues' as they arise, as you are doing, will eventually result in a smooth running schedule. As I mentioned before, for a first time op session, I think things ran extremely well! You obviously put a lot of thought into the operations and it showed that night. Now it's just a matter of 'tweaking' things.

Looking forward to the next session!


Mark

Country: USA | Posts: 13120 Go to Top of Page

Tyson Rayles
Moderator

Premium Member


Posted - 09/18/2015 :  07:50:22 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Great job on the fall colors.

Mike

Edited by - Tyson Rayles on 09/18/2015 07:58:39 AM

Country: USA | Posts: 12264 Go to Top of Page

MikeMc
Engine Wiper



Posted - 09/29/2015 :  4:02:39 PM  Show Profile  Visit MikeMc's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Op Session #2 went pretty smoothly last week and I am very happy with the results. Definite progress in getting the operations plan tweaked, and a few things learned to help going forward.

We had 1 extra guy, making a crew of 7 plus myself. I think it probably runs better with 6 guys, but all in all, things went pretty well. I think when the schedule is balanced better and the guys are more familiar with the layout, things will run well. But good to know I can accommodate an extra guy if that happens. And if we only had 5, I would probably have to jump in to help, as just 2 road operators would slow things down. There are also a few trains on the schedule that could be skipped if necessary, without disrupting other trains.

First time attendee Rick B., aka Harsco, is dropping some cars from MEC RY-2 at the interchange in Whitefield for the B&M



We started rolling trains at 7:45 and finished up about 11:30. Ideally I'd like to be done by 11 so it is not too late for the guys heading home. As there was still a fair bit of instruction to get things started, I do know that time will be shaved off at the start as we do this more often. Normally it will not take 45 minutes from when guys arrive to when we start running, even with a bit of socializing.

Three trains did not run. The Amtrak and CP TOFC trains could have run - these need to run near the same time as they must pass each other in St. Johnsbury. I held these trains as things were pretty busy enough in St. Johnsbury without additional trains coming through. Ideally these will run at a time when the yard quiets down, perhaps when the yard crew guys are grabbing a snack. And the CP 904 northbound train which is scheduled to depart late in the session did not run again. This was really just a time issue as it was too late.

Crew Call Sheet at the end of the night



I tried to be as accurate as possible in recording train times for started and ended. Some of the crew helped out too filling this in as they came off duty and returned the train card. I made some on-the-fly changes in the schedule to keep things balanced and will use that in sequencing the trains for next time. I also will fill in start times for trains based on the info from this session. I'll update this with actual times during the next session to see how it compares.

The goal will be to get a good spacing of trains and allow crews a little down time to snack and socialize, knowing what else is coming up. This works well on other area layouts, and hopefully I can get there after a few more sessions.

MarkF and Joe DnHMan held down St. J yard duties again - I thought it would be helpful not to start moving people to different assignments yet as I try to get the operating plan nailed down



The guys were still having some trouble with the waybills and I had to do some explaining now and again. I thought about the questions they were asking and ways that I might address some of those issues encountered.

One of the things I have on my waybills is information about where the car is coming from and going to off the layout. For example, a car of cement might be coming from Howes Cave in New York, and the waybill reflects that.

While this is pretty cool (at least I think so!), in the heat of operations, guys are pretty much just wanting to know where does the car go NEXT. That can be difficult not knowing as much about the layout, the railroads modeled and the geography of the area as I do. What is easy for me to figure out is not quite the same for everyone else.

With that in mind I am making some subtle changes to the waybills to assist. First, on the To and From boxes, I am using only actual layout locations. This will assist yard crew in figuring out which cars go on which trains. For example, if a To destination is East Deerfield, that car needs to get onto CP 917 heading south, the only train heading to that destination. Even if the car is later destined for Howes Cave NY, that is off the layout and does not really concern the crew in St. Johnsbury. As much as it is nice to have waybills that are more prototypical, if it does not help the crew get the job done, then that is an issue during operations

The other change will be to highlight the Consignee destination box for any car that will be spotted locally on the layout, i.e. a car that will not end up in staging. This is just one more helpful hint to assist the operator.



An updated waybill, the To and From are layout destinations now, while the Shipper and Consignee contain some of the prototype info that I want to include on waybills (and used to be in the To and From boxes). This car will be set out locally at Ciment Quebec, which the highlighted box helps convey. It is now easier to tell the crew to just look at the colored sections of the waybill: The upper right color assists yard crews in sorting trains (orange is a MEC destination), the highlighted To box is where this car is going next, and if highlighted, the Consignee box indicates the 'local' industry receiving the car.

I also know that the turnout controls operated via DCC with the throttles are slowing things down too much, and are not making for a good experience for the crew. This is another thing that worked well when it was just me operating the layout, but does not work as well for a visiting Ops crew. This I already have started to address and will write up in a new post later.

There was also a few mechanical type layout issues (a dead frog, a short circuit issue, some cars not operating well) that are normal things to fix on the layout, but are not necessarily an issue with the operations plan.

For now, a couple more pictures from the last session. As always, I wanted to take more, but when things get busy, I just forget to do so!

DiamondBill again handled duties at Morrisville, keeping the Lamoille Valley humming right along



John R. of CL&W ran the MEC local YQ-1, seen here spotting cars at Ciment Quebec and Maple Grove Farms in East St. Johnsbury. In the back is another newcomer, Phil D. aka sjconrail, handling the paper mill switch job on the B&M at Groveton.




Country: USA | Posts: 229 Go to Top of Page

jbvb
Fireman

Premium Member


Posted - 09/29/2015 :  5:02:11 PM  Show Profile  Visit jbvb's Homepage  Reply with Quote
You drew a serious crowd for #2; glad it went well.

I had some similar issues with my original MM weighbills, so I've been updating them to spreadsheet output a dozen at a time. But I haven't removed much of the detail - the format my friends Joe and Mal made up has spaces for both a 'next destination/block' and a 'to/consignee'. If the destination is modeled, the station name appears in the 'to' field as well.

I don't have any DCC-thrown turnouts on my layout, but my experience with others is that operators who don't know both the throttle and the layout well will face a considerable learning curve.

IIRC your layout will be open for the Mt. Laurel convention, so I'm planning to see it in person.



Country: USA | Posts: 5049 Go to Top of Page

MarkF
Engineer

Premium Member


Posted - 09/29/2015 :  11:10:27 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Mike, I thoroughly enjoyed your op session! Your layout is well designed, runs very well and is beautiful to look at! The operation you have designed is unique, having three different railroads represented and the interrelated traffic between them, makes for an interesting operation.

With regard to the op session itself, a lot of what you are seeing is the newness of everything to the crew. It will take several sessions until the crews start to understand things and familiarize themselves with the overall operation. As that happens, things will operate more and more smoothly.

I'm already looking forward to the next session!


Mark

Country: USA | Posts: 13120 Go to Top of Page

MikeMc
Engine Wiper



Posted - 09/29/2015 :  11:58:22 PM  Show Profile  Visit MikeMc's Homepage  Reply with Quote
JBVB - yes, layout will be open, Friday afternoon. Glad you'll be able to visit!

Mark - the 'next' session should be interesting as it will be the MER crew. So that will be all new again! But yes, it will be good when the regular crew is back, and I'm sure you're right, familiarity will help. It certainly is a lot of fun to have the layout come to life with you guys running it!

Mike Mc.
Delran, NJ



Country: USA | Posts: 229 Go to Top of Page

nhguy
Fireman



Posted - 10/05/2015 :  5:56:00 PM  Show Profile  Visit nhguy's Homepage  Send nhguy a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote


Bill Shanaman
New Haven RR
Hartford Division
in Colorado.

Country: USA | Posts: 4763 Go to Top of Page
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